Friday, May 02, 2014

Spiritual Sloth, Reformation Style

Heads up: this will be an offensive post. The people who tut-tut the Catholic Church's soteriology and sacramental system as a "sacramental treadmill" are right. So what? What do you have against treadmills? Do you like being out of shape?

On the one hand, I loved Jerry Bridges' "Transforming Grace". It takes the time to remind you of all the wonderful Scriptures about God's love for us in Christ. That never gets old, and it never should. (Lord, have mercy!)

But I never realized until I was Catholic how much Protestants confuse the subjective experience of God's (often overwhelming) attracting love with false "Reformation" assertions about the atonement, "faith alone", etc. We did it all the time. He doesn't mean to, but Bridges is confusing these 2 things, and he's twisting the Scriptures. That's why we need a Magisterium; not because we don't know how to read, but because we do.

It is asserted that Catholic sacramental life teaches people to rely on themselves. That's comical. It's the opposite, exactly. All of us go through our days and discover, "I feel powerless to break this destructive habit of sin," etc. Guess what? You are. If you said otherwise, you'd be a Pelagian. A Catholic goes to Confession, Communion, and others precisely because he knows he's hopeless and powerless without Christ. It's not "mechanistic," unless you are a buffoon. Did Christ not say, "Apart from me, you can do nothing"?

I can't spend longer than 2 seconds in a Catholic church without thinking about the gospel. If that. You can't even walk into one without reflecting on your baptism; that's what the holy water is for.

Can you do something by rote, without a thought? Sure. But no one says, "It's just like riding a bike!" and then scorns the kid, and the dad who made her practice. Stephen Curry shoots like 5000 3-point buckets in a day for practice. Is anyone going to accuse him of missing the essence of basketball?

Thursday, May 01, 2014

What That Lady Said

Just read this. Did you catch The Question? "What is the Church?" People my age and younger are asking this question, and it won't go away. It seems abstract, but it's not. As I have written probably a thousand times, I'll do it again: People need to know what God said in the places closest to their lives in order to be Christians. This is why infallibility MUST be part of the discussion. When God speaks, He speaks without error. A sectarian is nothing more and nothing less than a person who believes that God is speaking inerrantly to him. And it's a reasonable choice; you need infallibility somewhere. But the Noltie Conundrum comes to cast more than a reasonable doubt on any particular view I may be holding, by taking the bad faith, "Well, he disagrees because he's stupid, sinful, etc." out of the equation. It works because it's a strictly theological problem. Ask it this way: "What does it say about God that the Holy Spirit is speaking in the Scriptures in all these obviously contradictory ways?"

Let it sit there.

At this point, people say, "We're united in the essentials of faith." Oh, really? Which ones? I dare you to attempt a baptism on an infant member of Mark Dever's church. If people can't even agree on what a sacrament is and does, and who is worthy to receive it, spare me the unity talk. I'm sure Mark Dever believes the perspicuous Scriptures are decidedly clear on that point, too. We can't even use the Creed in his case, because he doesn't believe "I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins." (Neither do most "historic" Presbyterians, mind you.) Bonus fun: I dare you to attempt to receive Communion in an LCMS church, if you believe so essentially in common! Ha!

Here's the funny part: I haven't even mentioned the Catholic Church yet. That's all well and good. For your own good, you need to feel the pain of the Conundrum as a Protestant before you do anything else. It had to be that way for me. I did not want to accuse myself of being charmed by incense or funny hats for the rest of my life.

I could have just figured I was smarter than all of you at the Presbyterian seminary there, that my understanding of the text was good enough to settle it. I'm smarter than most of you. But not all. And so began a search for what we know, and how we know it.

Oh, man.

I've really only learned 2 things in my whole life about God: God is Love, and God is faithful. You tell me: What is faithful and loving about a God who allowed a false gospel to envelop the world for a thousand years, give or take? Does that sound like our Father, our Lord, or the Spirit who will guide us into all truth? That is--with a few variations--exactly what story the Reformation commits one to. Post-Incarnation, mind you. Seriously, now, let that sit.

You go on and chatter about your appreciation for the great Catholics of the past; go ahead. If you are a child of the Reformation though, you're lying to yourself. All the obvious and manifest good must be dismissed as idolatry. If you're right, St. Augustine was an idolater, who believed in magic and man-pleasing. St. Francis of Assisi, same thing, only worse.

But firstly, I realized I could only believe this by begging the question. I had to assume that Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, Bucer, or whomever was right, and therefore, so was I. But there was a time when they were not; what did God do then? How was his faithfulness expressed?

"...and upon this rock, I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it." OK, Lord. Where is it?

Trace it forward. You'll be cheering most of the way, because a good Protestant cheers the early Christology, at the very least. But again, you're cheering for idolaters. Mariology, submission to the pope, and transubstantiation were not invented last week. In fact, these "heroes" believed all that stuff. If I've previously stopped begging the question, that is, at least reserving judgment about what orthodoxy is until I hit the Reformation, I don't say it like that. But even failing in that task, it invites you to ask yourself, "Am I sure that these people who preserved what I acknowledge to be part of the gospel, were nonetheless heretics and idolaters?" By what means do I make the judgment? Am I on the fence about St. Lawrence's salvation, because he obviously didn't make the proper (Reformed) distinction between sign and reality in the Supper? You'll have to forgive me, but that's absurd. Tell you what: I want to find out what he's having--what he's believing--and why, and I want it, too.

And that, my friends, is the heart of it. Love for Christ--deep, fiery, supernatural love--can't be faked. Idolaters can't mimic it; man-pleasers don't have it. Liars and apostates don't die for Jesus. A false gospel doesn't make heroes. A false Church doesn't have these true sons and daughters.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

5 Thoughts For Today

5. I almost died from the joy of reading this. No, I'm not joking. It's the little things.

4. "Will the Progressive Bullying and Insanity Ever End?" Department.

3. Gloat at your own risk, Sterling-haters. It's all a party until you're the pariah. Just ask Eich, or Dan Cathy. Do you think these emotionally-immature intellectual lightweights who run our culture won't move the line of "socially acceptable" and "prejudice" and crucify you on it? Good luck with that.

2. All the more reason to ground a society's baseline morality in something more than majority opinion, BTW. I'd like to slap every "Enlightenment" "thinker" right in the face. Ah, but, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." Yes, Lord.

1. DO IT! You're right; it does get my Counter-Reformational juices flowing at least 23 percent of the time. But it's awesome, seriously. I read it every day. I don't even watch "Breaking Bad." Nor do I have hipsterish musical tendencies. And I have no love for feminism or moderate political instincts. But this magazine sucks way less than Slate, so you should give them money.

World Vision Is Not The Problem, Part IV (Dan Haseltine)

I really appreciate this from Dan Haseltine. And...I told you so. It really is about Sola Scriptura. Here's Dan:

"I care about what scripture says. It matters.

The second round of poorly chosen words surrounded the clarity of scripture. I was trying to communicate that although we often say, “Scripture is clear about this or that,” the very fact that so many people disagree or have alternate perspectives or interpretations of scripture, means that we have to move beyond simply quoting a scripture to prove our point. We have to dig into the scripture and help translate it and offer context. Simply quoting a scripture can stall out a good honest dialogue.

But what I wrote was:

“Never liked the phrase: “Scripture clearly says…(blank) about…”

Because most people read and interpret scripture wrong, I don’t think scripture “clearly” states much of anything regarding morality.”

Did you catch that? He might as well say, "The interpretive crisis caused by the allegedly perspicuous Scriptures is so deep, I don't know what to do." And he doesn't. I don't blame him. Do you really think Rachel Held Evans woke up yesterday and said, "I think I'll deny Christ today"? Tim Dukeman may think so; I don't. Rather, I think the center of this whole Protestant project relies on consensus, or the fabrication of one. When it breaks down, look out. Poor Dan found out at least a little that the conservative evangelical consensus is still strong enough to cause him problems. But it will go with the culture eventually. The Bible does not say what nations should do with people who practice homosexuality and want to imitate a family. (Nor what nation-states owe to Natural Law.) But the Natural Law does. The social doctrine does, though. Ditto for things like contraception, abortion, and a bunch of other things.

The only thing that makes Rachel Held Evans a pariah in the evangelical community is that she's reliably and predictably progressive politically. And with no binding social doctrine, she therefore fits and flows with the zeitgeist on most things. That makes her easy to dismiss. The other Protestant evangelicals can preen comfortably, because it's not immediately obvious (to them) that they can't distinguish between revelation and human opinion, either. (Or, aren't even trying.)

Come home now, before you don't even recognize yourself, and Christ within you!

5 Tasty Morsels

5. Dear Heroic Fighter of Communism, I will be happy to read your book...for something less than $175. [You just didn't want to spell his name, did you?--ed.] Guilty.

4. I can't really spell "Gulag Archipelago," either.

3. Do you think What's-his-name would have enjoyed Kenny Loggins in a less-intense version of his life?

2. I wonder if John Paul the Great liked Kenny Loggins? [Seriously, what's with you and Kenny Loggins?--ed.] He's awesome.

1. If I were not white, and therefore disqualified from speaking on any matter of consequence involving race [sarcasm]--unless I parroted the usual progressive nonsense about my unworthiness to speak--I'd say the Los Angeles Clippers are a bunch of cowards. Sure, change your socks! Put on a hoodie again! Your courageous ineffectual symbolism will destroy racism forever!

Monday, April 28, 2014

I Was Thinking

5. Money doesn't make you wise.

4. Degrees don't make you smart.

3. That said, I'm not sending them back.

2. If that wasn't the worst St. Louis winter ever, then I am a ficus.

1. [It's late April, you pansy.--ed.] Exactly.